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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A whole hand, plus a finger

Our baby is turning 6 today.

I'm not sure what feels so entirely transformative about this birthday to me but it feels like a giant rite of passage.  And yet, as with most things, the changes that turning 6 signifies in my mind, the ones I can't help but feel I need to brace my heart against, have already happened.  Maya has become a six-year-old in the past 3-4 months in the way her mind thinks, the ways she expresses herself, the questions she poses, and the blips of self-control she exhibits.  She went into kindergarten having a good grasp of writing her letters and could write words if we told her each next letter.  Now at the dinner table she spells things aloud for us and she can read a little in just two months.  We went to a restaurant and she brought a pad of paper onto which she copied down all the words she saw (including "live music" and "Guinness" which was just too funny to even consider).

A difficult and finicky baby, and then a biting, willful toddler, Maya has grown into the most loving and generous child.  Every single day she says things like, "I have the best moms in the whole entire world!" and "If you count to 100 100 times, I love you way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way bigger than that!"  When we give thanks before a meal she always says variations on the same theme: "I'm thankful for my family."  "I'm thankful we are all together again."

Maya loves school with affinity never shared by her older sister.  She wakes up in the morning and says, "Do I go to school today?" and then gives a fist pump and a "YES!" when I tell her she does.  (Equally, because she is such an inherently happy child, she will also give that answer if I tell her it is the weekend and she gets to be home with us.) 

Maya's brain is an incredibly active place and as soon as she comes home from 6 1/2 hours of school, do you know what she wants to do?  Play school.  We have an easel set up in the kitchen an she spends hours at it practicing letters and numbers (and then using a pointer to identify each), painting, coloring or just pretending to be a teacher and dictating our family (not that her teacher is in any way a dictator, but Maya puts her own bossy flair to it).  She gives out awards and moves us up or down the animal behavior chart that Sandi made as a replica of the one at school.

This means if, for instance, I set a limit with her at supper (such as "Maya, don't put your feet on the table") she stares me down for a few seconds, slips out of her chair and silently moves my clothespin from the coveted owl down to the dreadful elephant.  It is a powerful and effective slap in the face.

We now have clothespins for each of us, plus Cinnamon the bunny (she gets moved to elephant OFTEN), Olivia our babysitter and Allison who comes over in the mornings before school.
Maya's brain is so active that the only time it is at rest is when she is asleep or takes a TV break.  She often will suggest outrageous projects or activities to do 5 minutes before we leave the house as though creativity waits for no one.  A few Sundays ago, she got up at 5:30 and before 7 A.M., while Sandi and Ella slept, we had read 3 Highlights magazines, done 1 science experiment and 1 craft project. 

This is why Maya needs two parents.

Maya, modeling the gloves she made out of tissues.  She sees possibility around every corner and behind every pedestrian household item.

Oh, how our baby has grown...


First run
Maya really, REALLY loves to get mail.  Everyday when we check the box, she says, "Oh! I hope I get mail today!"  When Ella was home sick with poison ivy, she made her a card with some jokes on it, sealed it in an envelope and left it in the mailbox with the rest of the mail for Maya.  Small gesture, big reaction.

Maya is learning about punctuation at school and I believe she has been waiting her whole life for the arrival of the exclamation point.  We read endless loops of Mo Willems books (no complaining from me) which heavily utilize the exclamation point.  Maya feels it is her duty to shout the exclamation for the entire neighborhood to hear and experience.  When you cover your ears in protection she shrugs and points to the exclamation point as if to say, "It's not my fault.  It's the punctuation."

One of our all-time favorite Mayaisms is, "I don't matter" by which she means "It doesn't matter."  We will miss this one when it is gone.

The other day we left for school in a bit of harried fashion. I needed to get Maya to school, Ella to Trish (again during the posion ivy debacle of 2013) and me to work.  After dropping Maya I had a panicked feeling as I remembered that I hadn't put her hearing aids in.  This is a recipe for disaster at school.   Stressed and knowing I wouldn't have time to run home and get them, I called the school.  They checked and she was wearing them.  Our responsible little girl had seen them on the counter and plucked them in her ears without even being asked.  I was so intensely proud of her it brought tears to my eyes.

There are so many other countless things to love about Maya.  The way she sits with her legs crossed like a lady while she does a totally child-like activity like coloring.  The way she has recently become scared of her own shadow and can't go "by my own" anywhere in the house without a companion.  (That one is honestly cute and often rather maddening.)  The fact that when I pick her up from school she runs out and jumps into my arms like we haven't seen each other in weeks and as she hugs me she tells me how much she missed me. That when we were loading wood with each and every armload she would shout: "LOOK HOW STRONG I AM!!"  And how at dinner the other night as we were discussing her birthday, she tapped her cheek and said, "Hmm...I need to figure out what to get Ella for her birthday." 

Maya is a bundle of firing neurons, a hum of excited energy that can barely be contained in her body.  She skips everywhere, sings or talks constantly and if those get boring she just makes random noise with her mouth.  She loves to entertain and will do anything for a laugh.  If she feels she is losing her kid audience and can feel their laughter ebbing, she slyly throws the word "poop" in any random string of words and catches kids like fish on a line.  Maya has twigy arms and legs that are deceptively strong and can do several pull-ups in gymnastics.  She remembers the lyrics to songs heard weeks before and will belt them out at odd, often inappropriate times.  She doesn't like candy or cake or really even ice cream and is sort of reverse picky in that she won't eat any kid food.  Her go-to foods are cereal, pasta, brown rice, cheese sticks, and fruits and veggies.  She has a giant pink pig named Eliza that she sleeps with and a security blanket called "Blue" that she still drags everywhere.  She recently started asking a lot of questions about death and wants to be reassured that we will live until we are 100.  Maya has more joy and exuberance in her little pinky than some people ever feel in their whole lives.

Maya has taught me how to be tireless, how to make anything fun, how to laugh with wild abandon and how to love unguarded. 

One of my all time favorite Maya pics

So there is really not much left to turning six except some balloons, dinner out and a family party this weekend.   Plus some last minute arm exercises so that when people ask her how old she was, she will no longer flash them the five fingers of one hand but will also need to lift that other arm for the additional finger needed to indicate that she is now SIX.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

hanging in

We have 31 days to go until graduation and we are hanging on by our fingernails.
Over Columbus weekend when I met Ange and Emilie and the kids for a wood's frolic, Ella got the worst case of poison ivy (or sumac or oak, not that it matters) I've ever seen.  In a story that unfolds more like one of Aesop's Fables about the dangers of working too hard to prove someone else wrong, Ella got the plant oil on her hands and then, unwittingly, rubbed her eyes, face, neck, arms and legs.  She woke up Tuesday morning with a suspicious puffiness the likes of which made the nurse call from school and led to her being home all week trying not to dig her skin off.  Her face was so swollen and distended that she actually said to me, "When I walk I can feel my cheeks shaking with every step."
As with any sickness a mother is forced to witness in her child, this one was no picnic.  Two trips to the doctor, Benedryl, cold packs, hydrocortizone cream, oats and honey squeezed out of a cheese cloth pouch, and eventually an oral steroid did little to ease her suffering.
Mostly lately I am trying hard not to exist in a state of perpetual overwhelm as tasks mount up around me: paint the playset and the railing around the back porch before it gets cold, rake the billion pine needles on the front lawn, mow one last time, chop down the perennial gardens I just HAD to put in to excess, clean off my desk, stay on top of the pto drive to get supplies donated to our teachers, plan the kids birthday parties and make sure I have all the necessary stuff, put away the summer stuff and get out the winter stuff so that our upstairs hallway isn't decorated with plastic storage totes.  Did I also mention making dinner, keeping up with the laundry and groceries, outfitting little people for Halloween and working more than usual?
Oh, yes and remember those things I wanted to do when both the kids were in school? Clean out my long abandoned closets, revamp my office, have more time with my feet up and work on my book?  Yeah, it is hard to get to those.
In case you are wondering, I can hear the insanity in all of it.  I know it is crazy to be overwhelmed by our plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas at this early date. I'm pretty sure my mind just latches on to worry like a passenger on a sinking ship clutches a life vest.  I haven't entirely figured out why but I do it but I sense a pattern.  I am reading Eckart Tolle's "the power of now" and finding a breadth of wisdom and life changing teachings in it.  He says the constant churning mind is like a disease process and I can't say I disagree.
Did I also mention that my computer is trying to die on me and that for some reason every time I try to type a capital p it thinks that is a shortcut of windows media player and so I can no longer capitalize the letter p? It also no longer senses discs so I can't download audio books to my itunes library. My computer also tells me the memory is dangerously over capacity yet it matters not what programs I take off, I am losing memory on my hard drive every day. 
Now if that isn't a metaphor, I don't know what is.
I'm breathing.  I 'm meditating. I'm making space for being outside, doing yoga and riding my bike. I'm trying to show up even though it is hard.  Monday morning found Maya running down the stairs in a panic that she had flushed her hearing aid down the toilet.  Forty minutes of searching (in which I remained fairly calm, something to which I credit my daily meditation) turned it up in her storage case. She had only put one in that morning.  

As always, woven through the strain, there are so many bright spots. Like apple picking with my sister and her kiddos. All seems right in the world if I can spend an afternoon with my sister.

And this cool spider web I found with the sun glistening through... being present is hard but it allows me to see these gorgeous things that stop me in my tracks and remind me that, essentially, life is very, very good.  No one in my family is on government furlough, our equality rights are not on the ballot in a couple of weeks like last year and this ardous ride of anesthesia school is almost over.
Thirty one days to go.  Did I say that already?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

the wood securement of 2013

Every fall we are like, "Hey, it's probably time to get wood."  We decide on a good September weekend to have a wood stacking party and we call our wood guy and within 2 weeks Mt. Wood is erected in our driveway. 
Then this year our wood guy disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps he moved.  Perhaps he joined the witness protection program.  Regardless, he would not be making our firewood pursuits easy this year.
I started calling.  And calling.  And calling. I asked friends about wood. I asked Facebook.  I consulted Craig and his list. I had a friend ask the birds on Twitter.  I got some names.  No one had wood- at least not seasoned wood.  I came very close to buying wood that seemed way too cheap from a guy who was actually selling it in 16 foot lengths.  (I figured it out at the very end of the conversation when he said, "You realize this is in 16 foot lengths, right?"  Ummmm....) I also almost bought wood  three cord of all sort wood.  Thankfully Sandi and her mom went to look at it. 
In case you're wondering I really don't revel being in charge of the wood. 
Wood became one more thing in a long line of things that wanted to be worried at a time when I am working hard not to worry and stress about every last thing in life.  The date of our wood stacking party came and went with no wood and so, consequently, no party.
Then, finally, after 3 weeks of searching, I got the name of a wood guy from a friend of a friend.  He had seasoned wood!  Now, there are some great things about doing local business with do-it-yourselfers from Maine and there are some drawbacks.  It is not always a good thing to buy wood from a guy you don't know (like the one who was going to sell us all soft wood) especially since I'd heard stories about guys who will sell green wood as seasoned wood just because people don't know the difference.  
So, our backs up against the wall, we took a gamble on a guy that sounded nice on the phone.  Sometimes that is what it comes down to.  He runs a pretty low tech operation and brought us half of our wood by trailer load on Saturday while I was gone.  He and his son unloaded it by hand. (Our old, missing wood guy had a big truck that dumped it.)  He said he would be back with the other half.  Having been around the block a few too many times with this "I will return shortly" shtick, Sandi knew not to pay him for the other half until it was in what Mainer's refer to as the "dooryard."
He said he would be back with the second load.  Little did we know that meant at 8 pm, after dark, after the kid's were in bed and after the porch light was off.  The knock on the door in the pitch black night led me to review the safety protocol for women that I had read on Facebook- such as never open your door for a strange man after dark.  I asked through the glass who he was and he shouted, "I'm here with your firewood!" and I turned to Sandi and said, "Is this the same guy as earlier?"  I began to feel like WE were the ones in witness protection. 
Couch sitting was not our destination after all.  We gloved up and helped unload the trailer by the low wattage outdoor light.  Three cord of wood had been delivered like a baby by stork in the night.  We were happy.
 Really happy. we had to move it. 

The wood came at the perfect time (which would have only been more perfect if had been the Friday before our wood stacking party). It was a beautiful long weekend and we had few plans.  We started moving wood.  With the help of our mostly able-bodied children and Mumford and Sons blaring from the speakers, we got right to work.

Perhaps my favorite part of the wood stacking weekend was the morning after our 3 cord had taken up residence on the patio and our octogenarian neighbor came over with his coffee to visit.  He said he had gotten quite a kick out of watching the wood guy's son try to back their trailer into our driveway the previous afternoon.  David, our neighbor, said, "I think it took him about 20 tries. I wanted to come over and tell him, 'You know, you should have one of the girls do that for you.'" 
I know I don't mind that the neighbors refer to us as "the girls" and I'm pretty sure I don't mind that we have a reputation for patio-laying, landscape projecting, wood moving, trailer-backing-upping girls at that.  I would have loved to see the look on the guy's face had David suggested that one of us take the wheel.
The wood was split, how shall I say...not all that well.  About half of it was not split but in fat, round logs.  We can burn a few of those overnight but we had far too many.  Sandi got to splitting.  I confess, there is something about a girl swinging and ax that I kind of dig.
We shocked ourselves by how quickly we moved the wood. We began to wonder if we actually ended up with less wood since it was so much larger in diameter.  Oh, well. Live and learn: we must be more specific with our wood guy.  In the meantime the basement is full of wood and, because of last year's surplus, we will end stacking the remainder outside.  That means, the floors have been mopped and 80% of the work is done.  I was really proud of us!  We appreciate the help we have had for the last many years but there was something nice about giving our friends a break and taking care of it ourselves. 
I do have one question though.  Is needing Ibuprofen for the intense soreness in my forearms a sign of age?

Thursday, October 3, 2013


This post could either be immensely long and deeply personal, or just short and sweet.  I could do an entire post just on the yoga and the food at Kripalu.
For once, I am going with short and sweet.
Kripalu was everything I could have dreamed of and more.  I left what I needed to leave and returned with a heart full of all that I needed to have.

 It was truly wonderful for me to spend 48 hours caring only for myself.  I missed my family but relished the quiet focus on me.  I picked out these four leaves that reminded me of our family.

 When it was time to return home I was nearly giddy with the excitement of seeing my three loves.

The Maine bridge is always a welcomed sight on any return journey.
 When I got home the hugs and kisses and exuberant expressions filled me to overflowing. I had not one but TWO welcome home signs.
 It was with this sign that I was told of the not one, but two, new hamsters that the girls had gotten that very day.  (The story of catching Ella's hamster Sugar did not end happily.)  If you look in the lower right corner, I am welcomed home by Cinnamon the bunny as well as "Lemon" and "Limo" which are indicated by the words "new". 
The gifts I take from Kripalu feel firmly lodged within my cellular membranes.  The friendships I made feel like exactly the support I have been seeking. I think Kripalu is a magical place but I also  acknowledge that I went ready to work and part of what I got out of it was what I brought with me. I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity and feel lighter in every way.  I have a new joy and contentment in my heart that comes less from achieving anything in particular and more with quieting the constant chatter of my mind, with its litany of judgements and criticisms, and allowing the inherent joy of simply being.

I also really, really want to go back and become a Kripalu yoga teacher....
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